Middle Fork on endangered river list

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Oakwood, Ill (WAND) – A national scenic river, abundant with fish and wildlife, is now on an endangered list as it is threatened with leeching coal ash.

An advocacy group, American Rivers, has placed the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River on its list called America’s Most Endangered Rivers.  The Middle Fork is the only designated National Scenic River in Illinois.

The coal ash is coming from pits at a now shuttered coal fired power plant which was operated by Illinois Power and later Dynegy.  The pits were not lined and sit on the edge of the river which is slowly eroding.  The river is in the middle of Kickapoo State Park which attracts an estimated 1 million visitors each year.

It’s believed the coal ash may contain arsenic, iron, lead, nickel and other metals which can harm humans and kill wildlife, especially fish.  An archeological site along the river’s east bank is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes 1,000-year-old burial mounds. 

The 10,000 acres of public land surrounding the Middle Fork is home to the silvery salamander, the blue breast darter, as well as 22 other threatened or endangered species. 

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